Robert F. Lederer, the five-term mayor of Fairfax City, announced Thursday he will not run for another two-year term and will step down in June.
Lederer said his father, a Fairfax City councilman during Lederer’s youth, “always used to tell me, ‘Better for you to know when it’s time to go, before everybody else tells you.’ It just feels like the right time. It’s time for some new blood.”
Lederer was first elected mayor in 2002 and served five consecutive terms. He also served five terms on the Fairfax City Council — three terms in the 1980s and two terms from 1998-2002.
Lederer, 55, a lifelong resident of the city of 22,565 in the center of Fairfax County, will be best remembered for leading the redevelopment of Old Town Fairfax. A new library, shopping center and townhouses were built in the downtown part of the city, accompanied by new traffic patterns on Main Street and protests from existing business owners.
The library, spacious and well-resourced, was the centerpiece of the project in Lederer’s eyes, and probably should be named for him. The shopping center had difficulty leasing its office and commercial space when it opened during the economic downturn, but Lederer said 85 percent of it will be occupied by the end of his term. Similarly, construction of the townhouses was delayed during the recession, but is now moving forward rapidly on Chain Bridge Road with units selling well.
During Lederer’s tenure, Fairfax City achieved AAA bond status, was ranked by Forbes Magazine as one of the top three places to live in the United States, and was awarded a gold medal by the National Recreation and Parks Association, one of only four jurisdictions in Virginia ever to win the honor. The city also added a new wing onto its city hall, built a new police headquarters and a new community center.
Lederer also helped lead the fight to regulate the giant oil and gas tank farm on Pickett Road, which had seen a number of spills and accidents over the years which dumped oil and gas into surrounding neighborhoods. Earlier this year, the Virginia General Assembly unanimously passed a bill specifically mandating new quality control standards for the tank farm owned by TransMontaigne, but Gov. Robert F. McDonnell tried to delete the Fairfax tank farm from the bill. Lederer and other Fairfax politicians pressured McDonnell, and the governor reversed himself and signed the bill into law.
Lederer said he was not interested in higher office, though his name has been mentioned as a possible Republican statewide candidate. “This will sound hokey,” Lederer said, “but I got into politics less for the politics and more for the love of the city. I’ve lived here all my life. Everybody always assumes you’re using these jobs as a stepping stone. That was never the case with me. I hate partisan politics.” Fairfax City’s elections are non-partisan.
“He will be greatly missed,” city Councilman Daniel Drummond said, ”and will leave behind a legacy of significant accomplishments. Under his leadership and vision, the city has certainly thrived, delivering the best services local government can offer while keeping taxes low and maintaining a ‘sense of place’ the city of Fairfax is known for.”
Lederer said that, if asked, he would continue to perform in “The Electeds,” a rock-ish band of elected city officials which has occasionally performed around Fairfax City. “It’s not like there’s been any great demand for our services,” said the mayor, one of numerous guitarists in the band anchored by Commissioner of the Revenue Page Johnson. “But if we get some gigs, I’ll be there.”